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All posts for the month April, 2018

Frank Clark started to build the Clarkmobile in 1902 and the first model appeared in 1903.  The Lansing newspapers, on June 6, 1903 ran a story on the ‘Unbreakable Clarkmobile’, driven by Will Newbrough, and how the car and driver survived a bad accident.  Does the name of the driver seem familiar? The 1903 Clarkmobile was a marvel of innovative features.  It had wheel steering, a front end, (yes it had a hood) and a perky little engine.  Frank Clark’s father, Albert, was unsure about this new-fangled form of transportation, so Frank stayed away from the automobile industry until after his father’s death.  One interesting facet of automotive history is that Clark & Company Carriage Works built the body for the first test car produced by Ransom E. Olds in 1896.

A Close up of the 1904 Clarkmobile

Frank Clark sold his rights to the Clarkmobile to the New Way Motor Company in 1905.  Frank Clark went into business with Claude Furgason and established the Furgason Motor Company in 1909 to create the next generation motorcar, which would be known as the Clark. The problem is the image clearly states the vehicle was produced by the Clark & Company?  Why not the Furgason Motor Company?

New Way Motor Company

 

Here is an ad for the New Way Clarkmobiles.  Clark sold his interest in the Clarkmobile to 1905 to the New Way Motor Company.  It is interesting to note that the models being sold are from the previous year.

The New Way Motor Company was formed in January of 1905 as a successor [?] of the Clarkmobile Company.  The Lansing Journal 1/26/1905 explains that, “The Clarkmobile Co. has been reorganized for the continuation of the business under the name New Way Motor Co.” The initial capitalization was $100,000; Arthur Cortland Stebbins was president of the company, Joseph W. Knapp vice president, William H. Newbrough treasurer, Earl W. Goodnow secretary and finally Charles H. Way was the mechanical engineer. Chester D. Woodbury, Harris E. Thomas and Homer D. Luce also facilitated the incorporation of the company, which would also produce gasoline engines. This is odd, the sale of the Clarkmobile was almost an afterthought, was the production of engines was the main focus of the company? Or was the intent to sell off the Clarkmobiles and concentrate on the production of engines? Just what type of engine did the Clarkmobile use? They had a 7 H.P., 4 cycle single cylinder gasoline engine. Did Frank Clark design the engine? Why wasn’t Frank Clark part of the new company? These are questions I have not been able to find answers to. What is known is that New Way was briefly housed in the old Clark plant on South Grand Avenue until its move to Sheridan Street. One curious note in the State Republican from January 26, 1905 stated that a new auto car was being perfected in their shop. Did that mean they were improving the Clarkmobile? The article also stated that Newbrough owned 137 shares of the company, Stebbins 110 shares, Thomas 45 shares, Woodbury 55 shares, Knapp 55 shares, Goodnow 28 shares and Luce and Way 15 shares each. Did Frank Clark sell his entire interest in the company or was it lost to the initial investors? Just a note, the company was named after William H. Newbrough and Charles H. Way. (LSJ 2/11/1931)

The names of several prominent Lansing families are mentioned as having an interest in the New Way Motor Company.  The real driving force behind the company was William H. Newbrough and Charles Way.  By June of 1905 there is no mention of the Clarkmobile when the Lansing Journal described the move of the New Way Plant to Sheridan Street. The article only discussed the New Way Air Cooled Engine. Did the company sell off the remaining Clarkmobiles to cover the cost of their acquisitions? There was no reference to the new vehicle that was being perfected in January 1905. (LJ 6/26/1905 and SR 6/27/1905) It is interesting to note that a Will Newbrough is mention in an early newspaper account of the ‘Unbreakable Clarkmobile’. Just what the relationship between Newbrough and Clark was is still unknown.

The Charles Way, Engine Patent filed in 1904 Approved 1907

The New Way Motor Company essential was in the production of an air-cooled engine that was the brainchild of Charles Way. The company used the old Clarkmobile chassis and fitted it with the new engine [I can find no documentation for this statement which appears in several encyclopedias on automobiles]. The Clarkmobile Company transferred its patents and other properties to New Way Motor in 1905 [the transferred patents were # 776,708, 870,001 and 768,162]. The New Way Motor Company survived until 1930 when it was placed in receivership and its assets were put up for sale.  A company with the name of New Way Engine and Machine Company continued until 1940. After that there is no record of the company. See LJ 9/26/1908, LSJ 10/9/1930 and LSJ 3/7/1936

Charles Harvey Way, the mechanical engineer/designer behind the New Way Engine, which seems to have been designed while he was an employee of the Clarkmobile Company. I am not an automotive engineer but the engine appears to be impractical for use in an automobile but perfect for a stationary engine. This may be the reason why New Way was interested in acquiring the Clarkmobile Company, not for the vehicle but for the stationary engine that Way designed.

 

Clark Power Wagon

Frank Gunnison Clark was born in Lansing in 1866 to Albert and Hannah (née Gunnison) Clark. Frank attended Lansing Public schools and he graduated from the Michigan Agricultural College in 1890 with a B.S. in the Mechanical Course. After he completed his studies Frank work for his father at the Clark Carriage Works. On August 21, 1897, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company was formed with Frank J. Clark being named as a stock holder with 125 shares. Just what Frank Clark and Ransom E. Olds relationship was is unclear, Olds was born in Ohio in 1864 and his family came to Lansing in 1880. Undoubtedly the two young men knew each other, the families lived within three blocks of each other and both their fathers Pliny and Albert we familiar with each other’s business. The story goes that Ransom and Frank formed an agreement that Ransom would furnish an engine, while Frank would build a body, together they hoped to create a motor vehicle. Their parents were stunned and forbad the two you men from working together. What Frank and Ransom did was to work together on the vehicle late at night away from the oversight of their parents. It seems odd the Olds family would prohibit Ransom from working with Frank, Ransom was 32 years old and was part owner with his father in the machine shop, while Frank was 30 and had married in 1893, but lived with his parents and wife in 1900 at his father’s home. I am not sure what happened between Clark and Olds and why Frank Clark was not part of Olds Motor works or later REO. Frank designed and built the Clarkmobile, which was later sold to New Way Company, Frank later founded the Clark Motor Company, neither company brought Frank success. He later built a truck called the Clark Power Wagon and helped to establish the commercial truck industry in the United States. The Clark Power Wagon Company was the successor to the Clark Motor Company and the Fergason Motor Company using the old Clark Carriage Works plant as its production facility. (Motor Age 4/21/1910) The Clark Power Wagon Company stopped operations in 1912, REO began manufacturing trucks in late 1910, I have never compared the designs of the Clark Power Wagon and the first REO truck, but I am sure it would be interesting. In 1913, Frank left Lansing for Pontiac where he founded the Columbia Motor Truck and Trailer Company a business he managed until his retirement in 1929. Frank settled in Mason, Michigan after his retirement and died of a heart attack while visiting Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on August 14, 1952, he was 85. (LSJ 8/15/1952)

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